Hey i’m pretty new to your site, but so far its great. I i’m a pitcher and infielder. I have never really had a “Normal” arm angle but kinda always been a sidearmer. I’m a Junior in HS and this last year i tried pitching side arm and it felt very comfortable, but to throw my 12-6 curve, i threw over the top. I’m sure its not good to keep switching arm angles, not to mention the batter probly knows after awhile. Should i work on throwing over the top? Or persue pitching side arm? Pros and cons for each would be awesome. Which do scouts like more? And if you say side arm, please tell me some pitches that work for you cuz i have nothing but a fastball. Thanks a Bunch!!! Jordan
Hi Jordan—Greetings from another sidearmer!
I would advise you to stick with that sidearm delivery—it’s the most natural and the easiest on the arm and shoulder. There are many things you can do with it—for example, the crossfire, which is a move that works only with the sidearm delivery and which will work with any pitch.
You’re right in your observation that if you throw one pitch with any other arm slot the batter is going to catch on. So don’t change that arm angle. I’ve seen pitchers who throw most of their stuff one way but drop down to throw one pitch, like Jose Contreras who’s an overhand pitcher but drops to a sidearm motion for the splitter, and when that happens you can be sure the batters will catch on and sit on that pitch. You can use both the long-arm and the short-arm motions—I learned that from Ed Lopat who had picked them up in his White Sox days. And certain pitches are absolutely devastating when thrown sidearm, such as the slider, the knuckle-curve and the aforementioned splitter.
I was a natural sidearmer in my playing days, many moons ago, and when I learned the slider at age sixteen it quickly became my strikeout pitch. I didn’t have a fast ball to speak of, so I had to go to the breaking stuff right away and become a snake-jazz pitcher—and I became a good one. Because of that sidearm delivery I never had any problems, no sore arm or sore shoulder or sore anything else. I did have a shelf full of assorted changeups to play around with—and just about any pitch can be turned into a nice changeup, so you can do the same thing.
Any more questions, I’m no farther away than my stupid computer. And again, welcome aboard. 8) :baseballpitcher:
Zita Thanks a bunch for your help! I’ll be looking to you for alot of advice down the road haha. Anyways i dont throw very hard, my coach said i throw around 76 but i think thats pretty incorrect. I would love to know how you threw your pitches and grips…ect. beings that i dont throw to hard i think i might be good at like you said, off speed junk pitching. I would really appreciate if you can tell me how to throw those pitches, sidearm mechanics, and anything else you think could help. My coach knows nothing about sidearming, he teaches power pitching over the top so nothing goes with what i do lol so i have kinda been on my own all this time. Look Forward to hearing from you soon. Jordan
P.S. Do tell about the crossfire!!! Sounds Nasty LOL!
Good morning, Jordan. Great to hear from you, and I’ll do my best to answer your questions. Let’s begin with that crossfire. Strictly speaking, it’s not a pitch. It’s a move that works only with the sidearm delivery, and as I said, it will work with any pitch. And here’s how it works. You go into your windup, or the stretch, depending on the presence or absence of baserunners (you can, of course, use the full windup when the bases are loaded). But you don’t deliver directly to the plate; instead, you take a step toward third base (if righthanded) or first (if you’re a southpaw), whip around and deliver the pitch from that angle. Be sure to get your whole body into the action, as this will enable you to get maximum power into your pitches. I remember how I picked it up as a kid, after reading about it and seeing how Ewell Blackwell used it; I fell so in love with that delivery that I used it extensively, a fact that was not lost on my pitching coach. One day he was helping me with the circle change, and he said to me “I know you’re going to crossfire it. You use that move with everything you throw.” Indeed I did, and how it used to discombooberate the batters!
And that’s the crossfire. As for some of the other pitches I mentioned—now we talk about my favorite. The slider. It’s a long story, but I’ll try to compress it into a few sentences. I was sixteen, had been playing for a couple of years and was winning a lot of games with the bit of stuff I had, and one day I woke up thinking, gee whiz, I could use another pitch. So I played hooky from school on September 17, 1951 and went to a game at Yankee Stadium, where I saw Ed Lopat outpitch Bob Lemon 2-1, and then it hit me: Lopat was the one I would need to ask about the slider. I did, albeit with some trepidation because I had no idea what to expect—and he drew me aside and showed me how to throw a good one. He had a way of explaining things in easily understandable terms—not for him the abstruse technicalities or the kinesiological minutiae; he told me “Throw it like a curve, but roll your wrist, don’t snap it.” He showed me the off-center grip he used, and it was indeed off-center, neither two-seam nor four-seam but somewhere in between with the index and middle finger very close together and the middle finger just touching one seam. He demonstrated the wrist action, which is indeed easier than for a curve ball. Then he handed me the ball he had with him and said "Go ahead—try it."
I got the hang of it in about ten minutes, and I spent the whole winter working on it and refining it. It became my strikeout pitch. And it started a wonderful pitching relationship; Lopat, who was one of the Yankees’ Big Three rotation, became my pitching coach and mentor, and he took me in hand and helped me become a better pitcher than I had been—would that there were more like him!
A few words about the knuckle-curve: I had tried a knuckleball at one time and found that I couldn’t do it because of the sharp wrist snap I had on my other pitches (and I think Mike Mussina picked his up the same way), but then I discovered the knuckle-curve. Basically, you get a knuckleball grip, either two-finger or three-finger—I used both—and you throw a curve with it. That pitch comes in there looking like a straight fast ball but then it drops as it nears the plate, and batters will either stand there and go “duh” or they’ll swing and miss by a mile. There are variations of the grip—some pitchers will throw what they call a “spike” curve, with one finger or another sticking straight up, but you can’t go wrong with the basic grip.
I mentioned the split-finger pitch. It’s actually a first cousin to the fork ball, and both pitches use a similar grip, so I don’t advise it for people with small hands—you really need a large paw and long fingers for that pitch. But assuming you have these things, you grip the splitter with a modified forkball grip—just not as extreme—the index and middle fingers just off the seams, thumb underneath for support, and you throw it the way you would a fast ball.
There’ll be more coming later, so don’t go away. Oh yeah, one more thing—you need to be sure to throw everything with the same motion and the same arm speed.
Before I go about my errands for the day—I’ll be back in the middle of the afternoon—a few words about Ed Lopat. Besides being an integral part of the Yanks’ Big Three rotation from 1948 to the middle of 1955, he doubled as an extra pitching coach for the team. As a pitching coach he was incredible. He had a basic premise: that every pitcher has a natural motion—and what he would do was work with that pitcher and show him or her how to make the most of it. He knew I was a sidearmer who used a slide-step and had a consistent release point (with the sidearm delivery you’re sure to have one of those), and while watching me as I familiarized myself with the slider he made some mental notes; he was forming in his mind a jumping-off point from which he could work with me. I will never forget the day when, while we were talking about my repertoire, he commented “You know, you haven’t said one word about a fast ball.” I was flabbergasted and I blurted out, “WHAT fast ball?” He laughed easily, and he told me, “Don’t worry about that. We’ll work with what you’ve got.” Immediately my admiration and respect for him jumped some 600 percent, as I realized that he was tellling me that he would work with me and help me become a better pitcher.
It’s too bad that more coaches don’t subscribe to this particular way of thinking. They have their own agendas, and a lot of them seem to think that over-the-top is the only way to go regardless of whether it’s comfortable for a pitcher or not—and that’s how we see a lot of sore arms and sore shoulders and sore this and sore that, not to mention that quite a few youngsters give up on the game. I saw Steady Eddie one morning when he was working with a couple of Little Leaguers, age ten, on mechanics, and he was explaining and demonstrating the finer aspects of things like release points. One kid was a 3/4 pitcher, the other a sidearmer, and he dealt with each one individually, showing him how to make the most of his delivery. And I realized just how lucky I was to have met him when I did. What I learned from him was nothing short of priceless.
We’ll talk later on, and as I said, any questions you have, I’[ll be glad to answer them to the best of my ability. :baseballpitcher:
how old are you?
I’m 16, gunna be 17 on thanksgiving. A junior in HS
Wow! It sounds like Mr. Lopat was a heck of a guy. I wish the major leagers would be that humble to there fans these days but you just dont usually see it. As for pitching, ok so the cross fire, Say there are no runners on…going from the windup…go through your motion…pick your leading leg up… Now this is the part where i have a question so you plant your leading foot (which would be my left foot since i’m a righty) in line with 3rd base, and throw across your body? It just seems like it might be a little inaccurate if i’m getting it right. I’m glad to know that there still might be hope for becoming a successfull pitcher even throw i dont throw the hardest. Can you explain What kind of wrist actions you use when your throwing each of those pitches? And some detailed descriptions of the grips you use? or even a url with pictures that are close to the ones you are refering to. I really appreciate your help, your the closest i have to a pitching coach so you have no idea how much this means to me. Thanks Jordan
Yes indeed, Ed Lopat was a heck of a guy—and, as I said, an incredible pitching coach, a fellow who would work with anybody, from Little Leaguer to the majors and even with pitchers on other teams who needed some assistance—anyone who was interested, who really wanted to know, and who was willing to work at it. What really got me was the way he made me feel comfortable and kept me relaxed and receptive to the ideas and instruction I received from him.
Okay. Whether or not there are runners on base has nothing to do with the crossfire. The idea is to get the batter confused, discombooberated, all messed up. As I said before, you wind up and then you take that one step toward third or first as the case may be, whip around and deliver the pitch—and for this your best bet is the slide-step, which will add some speed and momentum to your delivery. When I pitched I used it all the time, and as a result if there was a runner on base he couldn’t get a good jump on me because he never knew whether I would deliver to the plate or step off the mound, spin around and throw to the base! Is it any wonder I fell so in love with that delivery?
Now for a few details about grips. I mentioned the slider and its off-center grip. The same thing will work for the circle change. I don’t know whether your hand is large enough to form the complete circle, like the “OK” sign, on one side of the ball, but if it isn’t, you can do a half-circle, like a backwards “c” which will do the trick. Ordinarily the other three fingers are on top of the ball, but you can use an off-center grip with two of them, and that will create an unusual break. You want that pitch to be slower than your other stuff, so you should grip the ball firmly but not too tightly—and this goes for any changeup: you don’t want to squeeze the juice out of the ball! And of course, you have to throw it with the same arm motion and the same arm speed as you do for a fast ball.
Another neat pitch is the palm ball—by the way, this was the first real off-speed pitch I picked up. As the name indicates, you grip the ball way back in the palm of your hand, all four fingers on top and the thumb underneath for support. Again, not too tightly, and you can vary it with a looser grip—and again, you throw it with a fastball motion. You also might experiment with throwing it like a curve or a slider—there is no hard-and-fast rule that says you have to throw a pitch a certain way. And that brings me to a very amusing story about something called a “slip” pitch.
The story begins with Paul Richards, who was a very good catcher and a renowned teacher of pitching. At one point he was the playing manager of the Atlanta Crackers of the AA Southern Association—this was back in 1939—and he had a pitcher on his staff, an old-timer named Deacon Johnson who threw a bewildering breaking pitch which for want of a better name he called a “slip pitch” (not to be confused with a pitch that slips out of a pitcher’s hand and falls to the ground with a “kerplop” and results in a balk being called if there are runners on base). Of course, Richards wanted to know more about it—after all, he had to catch it—but Johnson was a selfish coot who wouldn’t even show it to his own manager! So Richards had to stand to one side and watch him and make notes until he was sure he had it down cold, and he decided that if he ever made it to the majors as a manager he would teach this pitch to whoever wanted to learn it.
Richards did make it to the majors—he came up to the White Sox as their manager, and he taught this pitch to several guys on the staff, and then a couple of years later he moved on to Baltimore and left it with a couple of guys there. He described it as a variation of the palm ball, but more than that he would not elaborate, and the sportswriters had been trying to find out what it was, but nobody was talking, so it was widely believed that this pitch would forever be a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma. Oh yeah? What nobody, least of all Richards, knew or even suspected was that there had been another pitcher in the Southern Association who knew about it, who had seen it thrown—and who had quietly made a mental note for future reference. This pitcher came up to the White Sox in 1944 and spent four years being a good pitcher with a truly lousy team, and then just before the start of the 1948 spring training he was traded to the Yankees and spent the next 7 1/2 years being a very, very good pitcher with a great team. Yep, you guessed it—Ed Lopat. In 1953, just after the All-Star break, he uncorked the pitch.
And the batters in the rest of the league started screaming blue murder, not to mention arson, first-degree burglary, armed robbery, grand larceny breaking pitch, and every other felony they could think of—because they couldn’t hit it for beans! Of course, I had to try and find out what it was.
I went to a Sunday afternoon game at Yankee Stadium, and after the game I caught up to Lopat and asked him what was all the mystery about the slip pitch. He burst out laughing, and I got caught up in it, and so there we were, standing outside the ballpark, cracking up. When we were finally able to stop, he said, “I don’t get it. I just can’t understand what it is with those sportswriters, the way they come on, trying to make something arcane out of such a simple pitch.” And then he told me what it was. He said, “Get a knuckleball grip and throw the slider with it.” That’s what the slip pitch really is: a slider thrown with a knuckleball grip. And you can use either a two-finger or a three-finger grip, and by varying the finger pressure you can get the pitch to break in different ways. It is indeed a simple pitch, and as he told me, "You’ll know what to do with it."
Note: the pitchers on the other two teams, the White Sox and the Orioles, stopped using it as soon as they heard that Lopat was throwing it. Could it be because the mystery was no longer there?
One important thing you need to know: you have to be sure to complete your pitches—complete your follow-through. I’ve seen too many guys in the major leagues—shame, shame—just fall off and not finish their pitches, and not only does it look pretty awful, but also the pitches tend to go high in the strike zone, and the batter gets good wood on it, and BLAM, over the fence it goes. so be sure to complete the follow-through so that you end up in a good fielding position.
Okay, enough for now. I’m ready to hit the sack. More to come, so stay tuned, and any questions you have, fire away. 8)
Alrighty so do your grips match these?http://www.thecompletepitcher.com/pitching_grips.htm
Or do we need to modify them a bit?
Are you referring to all those grips or just some specific ones? I would appreciate it if you could post some pictures so I can make some comparisons. Thanks much.
I downloaded Steve Ellis’ book of pitching grips so I could make a few comparisons with the grips I use. And there are a couple of modifications you can do.
The circle change is a pretty standard grip, but there are some pitchers whose hands aren’t quite large enough to form the complete circle with the thumb and index finger. There is a variation called the “C-change” in which those two digits form a backwards “C”; Ed Lopat told me to try that one because I had been having trouble (my paw is not quite large enough!), and he also suggested that I move those other two fingers, the middle and ring fingers, closer together. This worked very well for me, and so I pass it on to you.
The splitter, as I mentioned earlier, is a first cousin to the forkball—a prime requisite for this pitch is a large paw and long fingers. But the grip is not that extreme; you just position the index and middle fingers just outside the “horseshoe” of the seams. You throw that one also with a fastball motion. I never used that one, but I know enough about it.
The knuckle-curve also has a variation—the spike curve, in which you tuck your index finger into the seam of the ball so that the knuckle, rather than the finger, is pointing toward home plate. I never used that either; I just got any one of a few basic knuckleball grips and I threw the curve with it, and it worked just as well. You might want to experiment with all of these and see what suits you.
The palm ball has the standard grip—you just grip the ball with all four fingers on top and the thumb underneath for support. But don’t squeeze the juice out of the ball! A firm but comfortable grip will do. Again, you just throw it like a fast ball.
There are many ways to throw the slider, as you have probably found out for yourself from having thrown that pitch. The one I used was what Lopat had told me—index and middle fingers on top of the ball, very close together and one finger just touching a seam. The trick is in the wrist action—you throw it, as he told me, like a curve ball, but you just roll your wrist, don’t snap it. And that’s all there is to it; you don’t need to concern yourself with various curlicues.
Incidentally, when Steve talks about the cutter he describes its action as slower than the fast ball. Oh yeah? Look at Mariano Rivera; he throws his in the mid-90s and when he really has his groove going he can get it into the high 90s—97, 98!
Anyhoo, those are the pitches I told you about that I threw—and I think you’ll find that book a useful reference. Have fun! :baseballpitcher:
Zita, sorry about the long wait, just got back into town. Thank you for the descriptions! I just wanted to clarify one. So when I hold the the my so called slider, i am looking at the seams of the ball as if it were a “U”. I put my middle finger directly on top of the right half of the “U” and my pointer finger right beside it. with my thumb on the opposite part of the ball on the bottom left Seam. Just to be sure your holding it the same, look and make sure the webbing in between you pointer finger and thumb run almost (just a bit inside) along that bottom left seam. I have tried to work with this but it doesn’t really move. Am i holding it totally different then you? That is what my coach said to try and throw but i have to disagree. Thanks! and again i am sorry about the wait. Jordan
No problem, Jordan. Hope you had a good Thanksgiving and didn’t overdo on the turkey.
When Ed Lopat showed me how to throw the slider, he used a very much off-center grip with the index finger on one seam and the middle finger practically touching the other finger, and the thumb underneath so as to practically cut the ball in half. That was the grip I used. And he told me to grip the ball firmly, but not too tightly—after all, as with any pitch, you don’t want to squeeze the juice out of it—and to just let the ball roll off that index finger. I remember how it took me a while to really get what I wanted with it, but eventually I did. I found that I could change up on it by loosening the grip a little. Also, I found that if I wanted to crossfire that pitch, I would use more wrist action, a little closer to a curve ball, and that worked well. You might try that too, if you throw sidearm.
And then, later on, he told me about the “slip” pitch—the slider thrown with a knuckleball grip. For that one you can use any of several standard knuckleball grips, two-finger or three-finger—what’s important with that one is the wrist action.
Any more questions, I’m right here with Old Stupid—that’s what I call my computer. 8) :baseballpitcher:
Get to throw my first pen of the year tomorrow, keep your fingers crossed